5:07am – again. So many days in a row too early.
A bit stuck and confused these days.
I haven’t dipped back into being down, but I’ve been struggling more than I’d expect for being up. Some of the difficulty is anxiety that may be orthogonal to the up/down of the cyclothymia. But I had expected to struggle less while I was, overall, up.
So that’s not fun.
Check-in: (aka “reviewing my triggers and coping mechanisms”)
“Information Diet”?: New category, this title isn’t right. This also overlaps / is similar to “interaction”.
I’ve been far more liberal with information recently. Both in ingesting but also participating online. And, while I think that can be OK, I know it can be difficult for me. With some other increased anxiety this week, I decided that I had to reduce this drastically to mostly not ingesting/participating. I can’t control all the inputs of anxiety but this can be a source of trouble and I can control it. So, no more for now.
Ingesting: this is mostly about news. And this can be problematic in two ways.
- More outside news input takes effort to cope with.
This isn’t my primary concern as, usually, I can handle this fairly well. However, when I’m low on overall energy or have acute stress, I’ll take all the energy & effort that I can muster and so if cutting this down helps me even a little, that’s worth it.
The boon that is social media and online communities takes a bit toll on me. I know this clearly and, mostly, don’t participate very much. However, there are a few places where I do enjoy and get sucked in. And I’ve been doing more of that.
I’ve had the energy and “mental overhead” to handle this, so that’s a valid decision. But, as I mentioned, recent shifts mean I need to conserve energy. So I’m reducing this for the next while.
Caffeine: Strict none/little continuing.
At this point, I feel like this is probably more or less the life-long choice. It’s still to early to know, but it feels like having extremely little is sustainable long-term. Also, that little bit allowed just “starts” my brain & mood in the morning. It’s probably worth trying a longer period of no caffeine again to see if I can normalize to that. But it is helpful to have it now, so that’s where I am at.
Diet: Eating well, long stretch of this.
I’ve got several weeks in a row (two brief pauses) of eating well. I haven’t seen much effect of this one way or the other, I don’t think. But increased anxiety, stress, or down = less likely to be eating well. I think that’s the correct causal direction, not diet –> mood.
Interaction: Limited amount over the last few weeks. I’ve handled it exceptionally well.
I’ve allowed several interactions that are normally stressful and I’ve managed them like a champ. My ability to manage them is probably the mot positive indicator of all in my list.
Part of the coping is simply being more aware of the cost and then allowing myself time to recover from the items that I know are going to be stressful.
So, part realist expectation for myself: “The day after X, I’m going to feel very down but that’s just my reaction to expending that energy. So plan to chill out and have a lot of quiet time / rejuvenating activity”. I try to remind myself that there is a physical element to this and it’s similar to sleep: I can choose to stay up all night or run a marathon – but then I’m going to be tired and will need sleep and rest. Same applies to my mental “energy”: I can spend it where I want, but some things “tire” it out and I need rest.
And part of my success is… mindfulness? I’m not sure if that’s right. But the “being aware” of the reaction and not having it “own you” or “define you”. The expectations and coping stem from the awareness, but the awareness is itself beneficial. It provides a level of separation that is helpful on its own.
Exercise: Not so good. I hate having this item here, since I continually fail.
Over the last few weeks, it’s been a mixed bag: a bit of good effort and then less so. However, having this item on my list reminds me that there is another thing I can do to help my mental health. And, given that I need more help, I’m going to do it more starting today.
That said, I have invested some time to get myself ready to exercise more (reviewing current exercise tools and resources and testing/fixing them). So that is a small step in the right direction, and something that needs to be done before I will exercise more.
Stress: Mostly low. But this week has been rough.
The stress this week came from unexpected sources, making it harder to handle, and I didn’t even realize its effect at first. That lack of realization is such a source of frustration on its own. But that’s part of my journey: recognizing what this mental health looks like and learning to manage and identify inputs and efforts.
There was a particularly acute source of stress and it wasn’t until a few hours after that I caught myself behaving in a stress-induced anxious way. Seeing those symptoms of anxiety was what made me realize that I was having a problem. In this case, it was the OCD-like symptoms (wanting to be ultra-precise and repeating something as needed to get it “right”) that I caught myself doing automatically.
It’s not ideal that I have to deal with these things. But that’s part of who I am right now, so I do manage them. And I’m getting better at doing so.
I do have some control: I’ll continue with the low caffeine, I’ve cut down my “information diet” (still the wrong name), and I’ll do some exercise that helps my mood and overall evenness. I am not without agency. Feels good even to say that and to know it is true.
In a moment like this where I feel like I understand the long-term nature of my mental illness, feel some power and ability to grow and manage better as a human, I’d like to thank those who have helped me get to this point. So far, those people haven’t been people who I know in person, so I can’t yet – but may some day. Because I can’t thank them, I feel a burden – they have gifted me this hope, and I want to return the favor. That’s probably part of why I seek to help others around me with their mental health, where I can.
So I’m saying thanks for helping: R, W, M, & J. You have guided and inspired and I’m better for your effort.
… also, this blog was started on just a “do it” feeling. But I think it’s been very helpful for me. The thoughts are nascent in my head, but the thinking is refined when worked into full sentences for the blog. And I benefit from understanding myself better.
Hey look, a song in my head.
Photo Credit: eltpics